Herbs for Skin, Hair & Nails: Plantain & Herbal Drawing Salve
Plantain (Plantago major, P. lanceolata)
Energetics: cool, somewhat moist
Therapeutic Actions: anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-obtrusive, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, vulnerary
There is a silver lining in every cloud.
The lawnmower is broken. Darn thing won’t start, and the fixes just aren’t fixing it. And the yard looks like we are thiiiiis close to abandoning the place (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration there). Where’s the silver lining, you ask?
Yes, the lovely, lovely weeds. There are dandelions, white clovers, pineapple weed, and plantain aplenty – all granted a stay of execution from the blades of my husband and his beloved mower. So, while my husband is curmudgeonly about the situation, I am not so secretly pleased with the bounty of delightful medicinal herbs at my disposal. Time to get some plantain for the season!
Plantain Medicinal Uses
This ubiquitous garden weed is an herbalist dream. Abundant and full of medicinal uses, plantain is a first class remedy for the home apothecary. I seek out plantain for all number of skin irritants and complaints. It is the perfect herbs for hot, itchy conditions such as insect bites, bee stings, splinters, blisters, and abscesses. Plantain seems to soothe inflamed tissue, dislodge foreign matter, and draw out infection, swelling, and irritants. It is often used to calm itchy skin, rashes, and allergies. It also makes an effective compress for uncomfortable hemorrhoids.
Plantain is also a highly effective herb for complaints of the throat and lower digestive tract. Its unique blend of astringent and demulcent properties promote tone in lax tissues while also soothing inflammation. This makes plantain an excellent choice for those with a hoarse voice and a persistent tickle in the throat, as when as those suffering from leaky gut or diarrhea.
There are two main varieties of plantain, P. lanceolata and P. major. Both leaves are characterized by pronounced, highly tactile ribbing. P. lanceolata leaves are long, narrow and sword-shaped; P. major leaves are broad, somewhat oval, and attached in a basal rosette. Both varieties produce a small flower spike by midsummer. This herb is common in pastures and lawns throughout temperate regions. Harvest only from spray free lawn free of potential contaminants.
For best results, plantain should be dried quickly, without excessive heat. I use a dehydrator like this set to a low setting.
Plantain Safety and Dosage
Like most of the herbs I discuss, plantain is widely considered a safe herb, without any known side effects or drug interactions. That being said if you are pregnant or nursing, taking prescription medication, or have a chronic illness it is best to consult a medical professional before using this or any other herb.
Acceptable plantain dosage is 2-3mls up to three times daily, or an infusion of two teaspoons of dried herb in 8-10oz of water drank up to three times daily. External application in form of an infused salve or herbal poultice can be applied as need.
Plantain Herbal Drawing Salve
When you were little, did grandma ever chew up a bit of something out of the lawn and apply it to your bee sting? Plantain is a traditional “spit poultice” herb, will the exceptional ability to draw. As such, it is the perfect herb to use in a drawing salve. I have found this simple recipe to relieve inflammation, soothe irritation, and draw out all matter or splinters, stingers, slivers, ingrown hairs and even decompress puffy water blisters. With our penchant for being barefoot outdoors and our sweet, mosquito-attracting blood, my family would surely not make it through a summer season without pints of this salve. In addition to plantain, dandelion blossoms and fennel provided added irritation relief.
Plantain Herbal Drawing Salve
Plantain is an herb with many uses. Make this plantain infused drawing salve to relieve all your bug bites, bee stings, slivers, and rashes.
- 1 cup base oil of your choice (I like 50% olive oil with 50% coconut oil)
- 1/3 cup plantain leaves dried
- 1/4 cup dandelion blossoms dried
- 1/4 cup fennel fronds dried
- 3-4 tablespoons beeswax pastilles
- 48 drops essential oils, optional I like fennel, ravensara and rosemary in equal parts
Combine base oil and dried herbs in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place in a small crockpot with water to the fill height of the jar. Infuse on the lowest setting heat for 24-48 hours. Alternatively, the oils can infuse without heat for six weeks, or rapid infuse in a double boiler over for 30 minutes.
After oil is adequately infused, strain through muslin or cheese cloth. Return oil to a double boiler, add beeswax and essential oils, then warm until completely melted. Remove oil/beeswax mixture from heat.
Pour into individual 2-ounce containers (approximate 4) or other similarly sized jars. Allow to cool completely before putting a lid on the jar.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Wood, Matthew. (2016). The earthwise herbal repertory: the definitive practitioner’s guide. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.